Time to go back to the basics in this week’s race when our cast will take a closer look at the Korean alphabet. Even when they examine the language at its most rudimentary parts, there’s still so much more to learn about how one person’s literary dream evolved into a written language recognized by millions.
EPISODE 320. Broadcast on October 9, 2016.
Today’s first mission technically kicked off last week when the crew tasked the cast and guests: The first person to bring the item that represents the phrase “to show manners to one’s superior or elder” to the opening will receive an advantage.
That aforementioned item is a wordplay of that phrase: a head of cabbage. That winner is actor Yoo Hae-jin, who happily hands over his cabbage. He has to wait a few minutes until Jae-suk arrives, then Kwang-soo comes running in wearing a heart-filled sweater.
Our next guest, Lee Joon also arrives with cabbage, and Ji-hyo jumps back when she sees Hae-jin. We saw a glimpse of our following guest not too long ago: actress Im Ji-yeon.
Then there’s Jo Yoon-hee, then Suk-jin and Haha run in together a minute before their scheduled time. Our guests are costars of the upcoming film Luck Key, and Jae-suk shares some belated greetings for Hae-jin and Lee Joon and their longtime return to the show.
Time to get down to business: everyone who has brought in a cabbage will receive 10,000 won. Jae-suk starts getting riled up when he’s told that whoever came in first place will receive an advantage, but he cools down for one second upon learning that the top four will be the Blue Team because he realizes that it’s an all-guy team.
The next four (Ji-hyo, Ji-yeon, Yoon-hee, and Suk-jin) make up the Red Team, while that would mean Haha, Gary, and Jong-kook are the Green Team. But they’re told that they’ll have a chance to switch teammates, but right now it’s time to eat.
So everyone enters the next room where a huge spread of food awaits them. The cast is hesitant about the free-for-all nature of today’s lunch, but Suk-jin fills his tray anyway.
Once everyone has their food, the PD announces that they’ll perform a dining table inspection. And that’s when some crew members appear to pluck food off of their trays. Ah, now we learn today’s theme, which is based off of Hangul Day (October 9th): “Acquire the Consonant.”
The team who collects all 14 consonants first will be given an advantage in the final mission. Now the PD explains that the crew took away all the foods except for the ones that start with the consonants found in the team members’ names.
The Blue Team is allowed to keep their rice (bap) because he won the first mission, and the item (cabbage aka baechu) counts to their usable letters. Not only does the limited consonants apply to food, the teams are restricted to those letters throughout the day. So when Jae-suk asks if they can ride the “bus”, he’s given the green light.
Suk-jin: “The only mode of transportation available for us is a gama [palanquin].” Yoon-hee: “Mal [horse] works too.”
They’re free to eat whatever’s left before them, words that make Ji-yeon scoff and Jae-suk remind the crew that Hae-jin is used to eating Three Meals a Day. Their next mission “Me, Hangul?” takes place outside—it’s a bit like charades where a pair of teammates need to act out the word to earn the right to answer.
This game will give them an opportunity to switch teammates, though Jae-suk says he doesn’t want Jong-kook, Haha, or Gary. Jong-kook remarks that Lee Joon looks especially handsome today, which spurs Jae-suk to gripe: “Are you dissing Hae-jin?” Hae-jin: “Hearing you say that makes me upset!”
The teams must form the word “gyu”, which Gary and Jong-kook complete with ease. Unfortunately for them, Haha wastes the opportunity by answering incorrectly, and when Jae-suk gets it wrong too, Hae-jin is surprised by the blast of air that accompanies it.
Suk-jin answers correctly thanks to Ji-yeon, who celebrates with a little dance. The next question asks what word describes “tough guy” in Korean. The first random answer? “Kim Jong-kook!” Heh.
HA, Jae-suk and Hae-jin look just as clueless as Kwang-soo and Lee Joon did a few minutes ago. Eventually they get it, and the boys answer correctly to collect the point. Next is to identify a word that wasn’t carried over from Japanese, and again Suk-jin and Ji-yeon answer correctly.
The ladies immediately group together who to switch out, and the decision is swift: Jong-kook for Suk-jin.
In order to complete their next mission to collect 14 consonants, the teams think of their mode of transportation: a sedan? Call a coordi? Or perhaps a private car?
So that’s how the Red Team end up in her van, which Jong-kook remarks has a smoky smell. Since Yoon-hee mentions that there’s a marketplace on the list, Jong-kook and Ji-hyo decide they should first feed their guest.
Over in another car, Hae-jin says that so many people do an impression of him that it really makes him wonder if that’s how his voice sounds. Then asked how Jae-suk knew so many of the idols’ names last week, Jae-suk humbly explains that they had nametags.
Everyone is taken aback when the veteran mentions his “trainee” days, which he clarifies as the time when he was preparing to become an actor. “Doesn’t all kind of training fall under the category of a trainee?”
Yoon-hee is already salivating when her team arrives at the marketplace. They can only order one serving of food (that again, falls under their consonants) and buy at least 10,000 won worth.
The Blue Team faces the same dilemma, and Lee Joon offers: “Cold rice!” Hahaha, but that counts! Thankfully yakgwa (honey cookies) fall under their limit. The Red Team munches on fish cake, while the Green Team eats fried meat pancakes.
The Red Team is first to complete the marketplace mission and pick up a consonant “d”. In addition, the team can also get to attack another team with a randomized selection: a) steal another team’s consonant; b) acquire another consonant of their choosing; c) they can acquire a consonant if they rip off a nametag from a different team within 30 minutes; or d) a dud.
Ji-yeon choose Option C, which will enable them to pick up a consonant if they rip off a nametag from a different team member. That should be feasible enough for Jong-kook, so it’s just a matter of which team to target.
Apparently the caveat is that the other team could attack them too, so the Red Team tries to make their rendezvous as casual as possible. The ladies feed the Blue Team in an effort to distract them long enough so that Ji-yeon can rip off Lee Joon’s nametag.
But all is not lost for the Blue Team, who is presented with the same offer. They choose the same option, so they head over to the Green Team and Jae-suk promptly rips off Gary’s nametag.
Eventually the Green Team finish their mission, but they’re cautiously optimistic about this random selection. They choose Option A and steal the Red Team’s “m”.
The Blue Team’s next game is noraebang jump rope where one person will need to jump every time the required consonant comes up in the lyrics. Each missed jump will cost them one point, and they need a score of 90 to complete the mission.
Hae-jin steps in as the first jumper. Their letter “j” only comes up once in the first few lines, but then they get too comfortable and miss two in a row.
And in his haste, Lee Joon hits himself with the rope. Awww. Their missed jumps will cost them a three-point deduction, but they’re in the clear with a 95. Jae-suk and Kwang-soo are suspicious about the high score, and that’s when Hae-jin chimes in: “I usually get a 98 with this song.” Hehehe.
Luck seems to be on the Blue Team’s side this round when they get to pick up an additional consonant aside from the one for completing the mission. It’s at that moment Kwang-soo says things are going too well.
The Green Team does a separate phone chance in the car, where they’ll call someone and will get the first consonant that appears in their answer to a given question (“What do you think of when you see me?”)
Haha calls up his musical partner Skull and sets up the answer for him to say (“curry”), which Skull gets right away. Elsewhere, the Blue Team is on a rooftop where their objective is to find the four letters from the original Hangul alphabet that have since become obsolete on the 10,000 won bill.
The catch? One person will need to squat over a balloon while his teammates will try to use the items available to crack the code. Lee Joon barely lasts a minute before informing his teammates that there’s no way he can endure for thirty minutes.
While Lee Joon tries his best to maintain his squat, we check in with the Red Team and the noraebang jump rope. The ladies automatically designate resident singer Jong-kook as their jumper. Ha.
But Yoon-hee jumps first, and she shrieks every time she misses a “d”. By the end, the Red Team is looking at a 5-point deduction, and she gets an 87.
Ji-hyo is their next jumper and prays that she doesn’t get the frequent “b” that appears in her song. And as luck would have it, Jong-kook selects “b”. By the song’s end, the PD informs them that the team is starting off with a 9-point deduction.
But then Ji-hyo scores a 100, which leaves them with a score of 91. Pass!
We check back to the rooftop where we learn that the Blue Team lost their first try thanks to the Green Team’s intrusion. Now both teams are looking for the missing consonants simultaneously, and Kwang-soo declares that he’s found them.
He shows his teammates where the letters are cleverly hidden: within the collar of Sejong the Great’s robes. Hae-jin is given the privilege to choose, and he bursts laughing. Oh no, is it a dud?
Yeah, it’s a dud, and they were only one consonant away too! Aww. To make matters worse, they’re told that another team has taken their “ch” letter. This means they’re no longer allowed to take a car (cha).
The culprit is none other than the Green Team, and not only is the Blue Team’s next destination far from their current location, it’s rather complicated to get to by public transportation.
So they decide to use the phone chase we saw the Green Team complete earlier. Kwang-soo calls actor Lee Dong-hwi, who apologetically informs Hae-jin that he didn’t really watch Three Meals a Day. Gah!
Hae-jin tries to set him up to say the nickname “Cham-bada”… Dong-hwi gets it right. Yay, back to the car!
The Red Team has 11 consonants when we cut back to them. Here they have construct a situation out of three pure Korean words. They only get the correct meaning of one out of three words on their first try… and then someone sneaks up on Jong-kook.
It’s Hae-jin, and the Blue Team have three challenging words of their own. Jae-suk thinks that the word for “hot-tempered (ddookbyulsshi) describes himself (“grasshopper” maeddookgi and “star” byul).
Kwang-soo asks if the word sageurangyi—which he thinks means “groin”—can be said on air (it actually means “a worn-out thing”). Pfft, the gesture he makes doesn’t help.
The Green Team arrives just as the Red Team completes their three-word challenge. They pick up two more consonants, and then decide to use the phone chance for their final missing consonant.
But before they can use it, the Blue Team picks up their final consonant which will give them an advantage in the final mission.
With that we move on, as the teams are given a lowdown of the rules of Operation Bundle: collect the item locked in a box whose five-letter passcode can be cracked with a mystery bundle that will appear whenever someone is eliminated.
If they find a question box and answer correctly, they may steal one of a different team members’ consonants in their names. Haha pouts, “But I only have two syllables. I’m done for if ‘h’ is taken away from me.”
Elimination sounds complicated and multi-layered: ripping off one’s nametag after finding the bundle is an option, but so is answering those question boxes correctly, which could weaken another team as a whole.
Poor Hae-jin can’t wrap his head around the complicated rules and chuckles to himself how making three meals a day was a cakewalk compared to this game. If it helps, we’re not always privy to all the rules from the start either. Sometimes, the show just drops those in as the episode progresses.
After instructing Hae-jin to just look for the boxes, the Blue Team learns their advantage: they can choose a consonant that will protect them from elimination once. When the others think of “j” as the most frequent letter, Kwang-soo says, “I don’t have a ‘j’ in my name.”
Armed with their nametags, the race begins. It’s not long before the speakers announce that Jae-suk has taken out the letter “h”, much to Haha’s disappointment. Turns out, Jae-suk answered correctly and was rewarded a tasty snack. When Kwang-soo tried to sneak a taste of the other one, he gags at the wasabi.
All the teams take a hit from the “h”, but everyone laughs when Haha’s elimination is final. But his elimination means that a bundle is hidden somewhere.
Yoon-hee finds a box and answers a question correctly. Ji-hyo makes the same mistake Kwang-soo did and ends up with a wasabi-filled cookie. They take out the “r/l”, which affects Gary.
We see Kwang-soo sneak up to Suk-jin to tear off his nametag, which he can do because he found the first bundle and the first passcode letter “y”. His elimination includes four letters (j, s, g/k, and n) which endangers Gary.
So there’s two more bundles up for grabs, but Kwang-soo uses his time to his advantage and chases Ji-hyo. But then he changes targets to Yoo-hee, who speeds down the hallway.
Jong-kook finds a question box while Kwang-soo blows past Hae-jin to chase Ji-hyo. Kwang-soo tells him that he found a bundle, and Hae-jin asks the crew: “What happens when you find a bundle?”
Jong-kook has yet to pick a consonant to eliminate, though the letters in Kwang-soo’s name sound mighty tempting to his ears. Kwang-soo cries out to Hae-jin for help, but the latter doesn’t appear to be at all alarmed.
And when Jong-kook chooses “s”, Hae-jin is all, “Oh, is that right?”
Ji-hyo celebrates at the announcement, knowing that takes away a letter from Jae-suk’s name. But then she realizes she’s taking a hit too with her surname Song. But that’s when she finds a bundle and tucks it beneath her jacket.
Meanwhile, Hae-jin is still trying to push Jong-kook off of Kwang-soo, though Jong-kook won’t budge. He and Kwang-soo eventually get Jong-kook on the floor, and now the tide has turned—that is, until Jong-kook grabs Kwang-soo into a leglock.
Despite Hae-jin’s efforts, Jong-kook puts Kwang-soo in an even tighter lock. Oh man, you can see the sweat on Hae-jin’s face. At the same time, Kwang-soo goes straight for the family jewels and rips off Jong-kook’s nametag.
As the announcement of Jong-kook’s elimination is broadcasted through the speakers, we see Jae-suk mulling over which letter to choose. Gary is in a similar situation, and upon hearing the announcement, admits that he nearly chose “g/k”. You’d be eliminating yourself, sir!
Jae-suk chooses “j” while Gary chooses “y”. Hae-jin is in the position of choosing a letter too, but when Kwang-soo offers “s”, the crew tells him that’s already taken. He cries out “g/k” before realizing he’d be out of the game.
Ji-hyo’s elimination means that Gary obtains her bundle. Only three letters remain “g/k, m, and n”. As Hae-jin choose “m”, Ji-yeon picks up another box.
Now that Gary can rip off nametags, he’s happy about the “m” announcement. Unfortunately for him, Ji-yeon chooses “g/k” which means he’s eliminated.
But so is Kwang-soo, and she can hear their distant cries. Now only “n” remains, and the only counterattack the other teams have now is to eliminate “j” (which the Blue Team selected as their protector letter).
Just as Yoon-hee answers her box correctly, Lee Joon finds one of his own. Only one of them can come out victorious…
… and it’s Lee Joon, who chooses “n”. The Blue Team collects the letters to unlock the chest. Inside is a copy of a manuscript that would later become the first Korean dictionary. Today’s passcode was an abbreviation of that project, which a Korean history teacher explains in further detail.
Ju Si-gyeong was a linguist in the early 20th century, who traveled the nation teaching Hangul while carrying a bundle, and died at the age of 39 due to overexertion. His memorial—where the teams participated in the noraebang jump rope—still stands to this day.
The language faced a cultural threat during Japan’s colonial rule, but thanks to the members of The Society for Research in the Korean Language (which would later become the Korean Language Society), who were also pupils of Ju Si-gyeong, spent 13 years writing a manuscript that was lost in 1942.
That manuscript was later found in the cargo storage at Seoul Station in September 1945. The six-volume set was finally published on October 9, 1957, Hangul Day, a day dedicated to remember and commemorate the long history behind a language so many worked so arduously to protect.